From Whitecliff to EIT- arts degree student Gabrielle Kururangi
After two years of studying arts in Auckland, Gabrielle Kururangi is enjoying the much more organic environment at Toihoukura, where she plans to finish her degree.
Originally from Te Araroa, she wanted to return to the East Coast because she felt she was not learning anything about the Māori arts.
“The whole programme was really from a Pākeha point of view,” she said.
She wanted something that was more relevant to her own perspective and feel more connected to her roots.Deciding to return to the Coast for her third year, she first took a year out from her degree studies to study te reo Māori.
“I had no reo before that – learning about the language and tikanga (culture) gave me a good base otherwise I would have been comparatively lost here,” she said.
“At Toihoukura we have mōteatea (traditional chant of history) every morning and the first one I learned gives me the whakapapa about Tairāwhiti,” she said.
This was in stark contrast to the Whitecliff College of Art and Design in Auckland, where the focus was on technique.
As well as learning about the technology and software involved, she spent a lot of time exploring the contemporary arts scene of Auckland but found herself increasingly unable to connect with the environment.
Her first field trip at Toihoukura was to the new wharekai at Kauaetangohia Marae at Cape Runaway and Hinerupe at Te Araroa, both of which feature contemporary artwork.
“It was beautiful and very different from what I had seen – it was great to learn the stories behind the work. It was just so different from the stark white galleries in Auckland, which really did not offer much. Here they were telling us everything.”
“Toihoukura is a lot more whānau and community oriented, which I find more relevant,” she said
Because she is majoring in photo media, she was initially a bit nervous about the transfer but has discovered her work is highly compatible with Toihoukura’s design programmes.
“Here it’s about developing the work and the skills involved – before it was more focused on the concept.”
Eventually, Gabrielle would like to teach art at secondary level on the East Coast because she believes education is the most important thing. But she wants to continue doing video installations and photography work.
“It’s awesome to have a place to come back to and know where you come from,” she said.